For the past two years, the wind industry has enjoyed record-breaking growth, and industry experts predict that with the extension of the PTC through 2008, the next two years will be record-breakers as well. The challenge for industry is to maintain the long-term wind energy growth required to fulfill the expectations of the President’s Advanced Energy Initiative. AWEA and the Wind Energy Program have formed a collaborative with 75 participating companies and organizations to evaluate credible scenarios for providing 20% of U.S. electric demand with wind and identify strategic actions that include:
The program also supports the development of expanded testing capabilities to support larger wind turbine R&D. The CRADA issued in 2006 that seeks partners to build a blade test facility capable of testing blades up to at least 70 m (230 ft) in length is one area targeted for expansion. The program is also exploring options for construction of a new drivetrain test facility of at least 11 MW in capacity.
For distributed wind technologies, the program will support potential markets by investigating applications such as off-grid water pumping for crop irrigation, residential-scale wind turbines, community wind, and hybrid wind/ diesel applications.
To ensure long-term wind growth, the program is also investigating emerging applications for wind energy such as offshore installations, hydrogen production, and the production and delivery of clean water.
Hydrogen production offers an opportunity for wind to provide low-cost, clean energy for the transportation sector. NREL, in partnership with Xcel Energy, launched a wind-to-hydrogen demonstration project at the NWTC that will investigate the potential of using wind energy to produce hydrogen. The project will use two wind turbines (a 10-kW and a 100-kW), two proton-exchange membrane electrolyzers, and one alkaline electrolyzer to produce hydrogen from water. The hydrogen will be compressed and stored for later use in a hydrogen internal combustion engine where it will be converted into electricity and fed into the utility grid during peak demand hours.
The program is also investigating wind energy applications that can ease the demands on the Nation’s water resources. As the U.S. population grows, it places greater and greater demands on water supplies, wastewater services, and the electricity needed to power the growing water services infrastructure. Water is also a critical resource for thermoelectric power plants. Wind offers an energy source that uses limited water when compared to thermoelectric generation, and it can play a role in supplying energy for municipal water supplies and processes.
All of these applications present new challenges to the wind community, and cost and infrastructure barriers are expected to be significant. The program’s vision is that this evolution pathway will begin to have an impact on the marketplace in the post-2020 timeframe.